The year 2016 has been filled with lots of successes and trials for my partner and I, with one of the highlights would be receiving the funding to launch Supplycart, an e-commerce platform for businesses that want their office to be a place to work happy.
While we were still busy in the drawing board for bringing this business live, my team had the chance to persuade me and my partner to participate in the e@Stanford Program organized by Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), and within a couple of weeks we managed to pull together an entry for the program and got selected out of hundreds of local startups!
We were really blessed with to be shortlisted as one of the 27 startups to represent the Malaysian startup community in the Sillicon Valley for an immersive innovation and entrepreneurship program held by Stanford University. The two-week trip in August helped us gain brand new insights and perspectives from within the Silicon Valley, plus being able to learn how experienced entrepreneurs and startups work with learnings that can be brought back to Malaysia.
We even had the chance to spend time in Stanford University to learn from some of the brightest minds around. Our lecturers did not only come from academic backgrounds but they also had experience in running startups and businesses in the Valley such as Lynda Smith (former CMO of Twilio and Nuance), Tom Byers (entrepreneurship professor), and Geoffrey Moore (author of Crossing the Chasm). Some of them are investors that have invested in numerous startups in the states. They were really cool and made superb tutors and mentors to us all.
Another week was spent visiting some of the biggest tech giants in the world and upcoming startups in the Silicon Valley. Getting to personally see their offices, workplace, and their employees was a really surreal experience – not to mention their well-stocked pantries and the heaps of cool stuff at the office to play with. We also had the opportunity to meet with numerous CEOs from different startups that are willing to share their thoughts and stories on how they run their company.
Our time there thought us that a sharing economy works for startups as it sends a message that you do not have to walk alone in this journey, but you can go the distance by leveraging and sharing with one another.
However, nothing beats meeting and bonding with your fellow countrymen in a faraway country. Malaysia’s prominent agencies were MDEC and Khazanah, which hosted a get together with other Malaysians who are based in the Silicon Valley – some of them are found among the top tech giants like Google and Facebook.
One thing that stood out from our interactions would be witnessing their willingness to share; be it materials, knowledge, experiences, or strategies that they have adopted to keep their companies growing. Our time there thought us that a sharing economy works for startups as it sends a message that you do not have to walk alone in this journey, but you can go the distance by leveraging and sharing with one another.
A particular company that I found interesting was Envoy, a visitor registration software. From the simple process of visitor registration and influx of competitors, they are constantly working on tweaking their features on a day to day basis to stay ahead of the game – a ‘kaizen’ philosophy where continuous small improvements will positively impact the user flow. Their CEO Larry Gadea shared with us that what makes them different is that their greater purpose to make an exceptional and welcoming experience universal in the workspace.
Two weeks passed quick enough, and what we witnessed in Silicon Valley blew our minds – the speed of execution and competitive ecosystem results in 25,000 new startups each year, with only less than 1% surviving the next year. From where we see it, Malaysia still has untapped potential to build greater startups. When there are problems, solutions would surface and present opportunities for startups to solve. There is always no excuse to not start on one once you find the right one.
One key takeaway I have from this is that entrepreneurship is never a sprint but a marathon – it requires training, preparing, and pacing ourselves for the long run. There are so many goals we would like to sprint to, but as a business, it is not about how fast you can chase short-lived dreams, but the sense of accomplishment in sticking on and persevering for a greater purpose you set your mind to.